PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE – An hour-long trial when Justin Hunt, 24, was accused of stealing a $10.99 bottle of vodka ended Tuesday with Judge Sawako Gardner scolding the city’s police prosecutor for filing “defective” legal complaints with the court.
Hunt, of Portsmouth, was on trial for a charge alleging he went into the state liquor store on Islington Street, slipped a bottle of vodka into his sleeve and walked past the cash registers before being stopped by employees. Store manager Robert Coleman testified that Hunt stole the liquor on May 19, “ran off and we grabbed him.”
“He never left the store?” Hunt’s attorney Joe Malfitani asked.
“No, we wouldn’t let him,” said Coleman.
A second liquor store employee, Daniel Wiseman, said Hunt pushed him and was restrained after he pulled the vodka bottle from his sleeve “right in front of me.”
After the witnesses testified, Malfitani told the court the charge alleging Hunt committed the crime of wilful concealment should be dismissed because police filed the complaint with language alleging he committed a theft. Prosecutor Karl Durand told the court that the complaint had been filed properly, while the judge disagreed.
“Why doesn’t the state look at the complaints before you go to trial,” she said. “It’s so simple. The complaint is obviously defective, witnesses took time out of their day to be here and this is not the first time a complaint has been defective.”
The judge said Hunt’s charge was “so defective” she believed she would have to dismiss it in spite of evidence that Hunt was guilty of a crime. Instead, the judge gave both sides 10 days to file further motions.